Perhaps you already know that it’s better to give money to humanitarian organizations before a disaster strikes. Unfortunately, for organizations like the Red Cross, or Doctors Without Borders/MSF, many people give money right in the wake of a disaster. That means that these organizations have to suddenly ramp up their activity with no warning, without a clear picture of how much money they will have for the projects, and without infrastructure in place. Since this money is often given with explicit guidance that it be spent in the affected area, it means that these organizations cannot focus on helping people where they can do the most good.
If you do give money specifically to help out in a disaster area, ideally you’d find an organization like Partners in Health (Haiti), which focuses on the affected area and is already active, but such organizations are not always easy to find. In any case, if you give money to the general funds of a good organization, they’ll be more prepared for future disasters, and able to respond whether or not the disaster receives attention in the Western media. There are always people in desperate need, but their plight rareky makes headlines.
Even if you know this, it’s easy to let time go by without thinking to make a donation. Moreover, the longer you wait, the less you’re likely to give. At least for me, if I give money now, I’ll make a larger donation and compensate by spending less later. If I leave the money sitting in my bank account, I’ll be less frugal, so that when I make a donation it will be smaller. To combat my general tendency towards inaction, I need simple guidelines for my own behavior–just as many people have an automatic deposit to their retirement account.
So if, like me, you’re receiving a tax refund this month, it’s the perfect time to make a donation during the brief period when you feel wealthy. The idea just occurred to me this morning, and I’m hereby resolving to act upon it any year that I receive a refund. MSF is my charity of choice and where I gave money this morning, but you’re welcome to add others in the comments.